Haley Irwin and Rebecca Johnston scored 1:17 apart late in the third period Wednesday as Canada battled back to defeat the United States 3-2 at the Four Nations Cup women's hockey tournament
The game marked the first meeting between the two countries since Canada's dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind overtime victory in the gold-medal game at the Sochi Olympics.
While the drama and stage wasn't quite the same as that memorable February encounter in Russia, Canada again found a way.
"We seem to always be behind in the third period, but we have a confidence, we're eager," said Johnston, who also scored Canada's first goal. "We just won't stop until the very last second."
Canada was badly outplayed for long stretches Wednesday and barely had a shot in the third period until Irwin took a pass from Jamie Lee Rattray in slot and fired a spinning backhand off the post and in to tie the score with 4:57 left in regulation.
"It's obviously not the situation we want to be in," said Irwin, whose team clinched a spot in Saturday's final. "But at the same time we just made sure to stick together."
With the crowd at Interior Savings Centre urging Canada on, Johnston then tipped home a Courtney Birchard shot on a power play with 3:40 left on the clock to give the hosts their first lead of the night.
"I felt like we got off to a slow start," said Canadian head coach Doug Derraugh. "It looked like nerves were playing a factor early on, but then as the game got going I thought we played better and better. Both teams battled hard, both teams had chances. Close game, lots of excitement was pretty much what I expected."
Genevieve Lacasse made 30 saves for Canada, including a couple in the dying seconds as the Americans frantically searched for an equalizer, while Birchard and Rattray picked up two assists each.
Shiann Darkangelo and Dani Cameranesi had the goals for the U.S., which largely controlled the game for 55 minutes but was unable to hang on despite only allowing 21 shots on goalie Alex Rigsby.
"I think we just need to manage the puck a little better, be a little smarter," said U.S. head coach Ken Klee. "We played a great game. When you outshoot somebody 16-5 in a period you don't usually give up two and not get any. We competed hard. It was a good game."
For all the talk of the Olympic rematch that saw Canada score late in regulation to tie it before winning in that dramatic overtime, Wednesday's game lacked some of the emotion that has been a staple of the two teams until late in the third period.
"I don't think our team was quite prepared for the speed of the game tonight," said Derraugh. "They're a skilled team, they play fast, they're physical, they handle the puck well, so they can control the game. You have to be smart with the puck and you have to play the body."
Hockey Canada and USA Hockey each brought vastly different rosters to Kamloops from the ones that suited up in Sochi as the countries look to develop younger players ahead of the 2018 Games. On the Canadian side, forwards Hayley Wickenheiser, Jayna Hefford, Caroline Ouellette and Gillian Apps, as well as goaltenders Shannon Szabados and Charline Labonte, are among the 10 veterans who were left at home, while the Americans are without 11 of their Olympians.
Tied 1-1 after first period, Darkangelo gave the Americans the lead at 8:37 of the second, batting home a loose puck in front of Lacasse on the power play.
Canada had three straight man-advantage chances to end the period, but was unable to find a way past Rigsby, who made a couple of good stops, including a nice glove save off Jennifer Wakefield.
The Americans opened the scoring just 2:08 into the opening period when Cameranesi buried her second in as many games in her first tournament with the national team.
Lacasse had to be sharp on a glove save a few minutes later before her teammates tied the score midway through the period on the power play. Rattray fed Bailey Bram at the side of the net, who in turn found Johnston on Rigsby's doorstep for her first of the tournament at 10:23.
"I think we had really great shifts and really great moments, and then we were hemmed into our own end for periods of time as well," said Irwin. "That's a learning curve for us and we'll get better."
Canada defeated Sweden 2-0 on Tuesday to open the tournament, hours after the Americans topped Finland 5-0. In Wednesday's other game, the Finns improved to 1-1 after securing a 1-0 victory over Sweden.
All four teams have Thursday off before returning to action on Friday when Canada takes on Finland, and Sweden meets the U.S.
Notes: The tournament is structured in a round-robin format with each team playing one game against the other three. The two countries with the best records play each other in the final, while the last two teams meet for third place. ... Canada's Marie-Philip Poulin — who scored twice in that dramatic Olympic final — is sitting out on the Four Nations Cup because of an undisclosed injury. ... Canada has won the Four Nations Cup 13 times, while the U.S. owns the other five titles. ... The Americans finished a disappointing third at the 2013 tournament as the host team in Lake Placid, N.Y., behind Canada and Finland. ... The next big tournament for the teams is the 2015 women's world hockey championship in Malmo, Sweden.